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Feeding alfalfa when hay is scarce?

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    07-19-2012, 01:12 AM
  #21
Trained
Here's what saved my bacon last year, and may again this year. I bought hay by the truckload in the spring, before everyone knew we were going to have a drought. Woulda been a bad move if Farmer's Almanac was wrong, but it wasn't. This year I have had my hay in since May. I didn't worry too much about the quality as I'm only going to use it as a pacifier and filler. They will get their nutrition from Purina's Omolene 400. That's a complete feed, but I like to let them have a decent amount of hay, not all they'd like but say, 5-8 lbs per feeding instead of free choice. I feed the amount of Omolene 400 per the bag instructions and I would bring the horses in to the barn and blanket to keep them dry and warm. Our winter was uncharacteristically warm last year, this year Farmer's Almanac says cold early and colder than normal. I'm washing blankets and getting them ready now.

I'm also buying an extra 1/2 pallet of Omolene when I buy my feed and stocking it up. I don't board so having someone walk off with my feed isn't really a worry, but I do keep my feed barn locked, just in case.

With 2 horses, guessing they should each weigh 1000 lbs (just to make the example easy), you'll be feeding roughly half a bag per day (25 lbs), if you let the barn owner just feed the hay. So, a pallet = 40 bags, it should last you roughly 80 days per pallet. I'm not sure when you start to get cold or how long it lasts, but for 2 horses, you might be able to get by with 2 pallets until next spring? If not, then 3 for sure and you'd have more than enough to help another boarder who doesn't get stocked up as well.
     
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    07-19-2012, 01:27 AM
  #22
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
In Arizona everyone feeds alfalfa. It is the cheapest hay and you can hardly find anything else consistently. My guys are eating straight alfalfa with only the occasional bale of bermuda mixed in as a treat (grass is expensive out here).

So yes, horses thrive on alfalfa quite well. I don't know why folks are afraid to feed it. It is a little high in calcium and protein when fed as the only hay source but if you use it to stretch your grass hay, you have the perfect hay mixture.

I think I would be afraid my horses would loose weight and look poor on only grass hay. Then again, it's hard to find good grass hay (that you can afford) in Arizona.
It may be that the nutritional content of alfalfa in Arizona may be different from other areas. I've tried feeding Queensland-grown alfalfa to my horse here in Australia and even just 2 biscuits of that a day gave him the runs. But the area it came from is very tropical and was in wet season at the time. Is it possible alfalfa from a dry climate such as Arizona's might be much less rich than from some other states?
     
    07-27-2012, 01:34 PM
  #23
Green Broke
I'm not sure. Alfalfa is popular to grow as forage and hay in the Midwest and Western US States, which are dry to very dry in the summer bc it sends down a 3' or longer root, and can outlast a drought longer than more shallow rooted grass. It is not a grass, but a legume.
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    07-27-2012, 03:08 PM
  #24
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilHorseOfDoom    
It may be that the nutritional content of alfalfa in Arizona may be different from other areas. I've tried feeding Queensland-grown alfalfa to my horse here in Australia and even just 2 biscuits of that a day gave him the runs. But the area it came from is very tropical and was in wet season at the time. Is it possible alfalfa from a dry climate such as Arizona's might be much less rich than from some other states?
It depends on which cutting it is. First is usually lower in nutrients and stemmier, the more cuts they do, the richer it gets.
The field behind my house is growing for the 5th cut right now. I noticed it gets shorter with every cut, blooms earlier, so more nutrients, especially protein.

When you start feeding alfalfa, start out slowly over the course of two weeks, so the horse's gut bacteria gets used to it and you avoid the runs.
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    07-27-2012, 03:38 PM
  #25
Foal
When I was living in California we only feed alfalfa and oat straw if we could find it - grass hay was not available. I have used alfalfa cubes, they work but are eaten VERY FAST. I had a 1000 lb mare and she got 10lbs a day with sweet feed and was fine - but cribbed out of boredom - no pasture turn out like here. When I moved stables, she went onto alfalfa flakes and sweet feed - again she was fine. I now live in Michigan also, and last year feed 2nd cut orchard/alfalfa but this year am feeding 1st cut from that field (wasn't going to wait to see if there was a second cut, which there was for $8.00 a bale). Cubes and pellets are essentially the same thing in a different shape. If your horse isn't used to alfalfa, go with the mix. Alfalfa gets a bad wrap in the midwest, IMO, because if is higher in protein, but straight pasture grass (not the baled stuff) is higher in protein then baled alfalfa - hence the founder issues with new spring grass. It is also higher in calcium which can through off the calcium:phosphorous ratio. I did use wheat bran to off set that ratio and balance it - but that was 20 years ago and not many people use bran anymore.

One word of caution for those who don't usually feed alfalfa, keep an eye out for blister beetles. I don't know if they are in the midwest, but were on the west coast and can kill a horse. Don't not feed alfalfa because of them, just be mindful of the beetles.
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    07-28-2012, 01:09 AM
  #26
Trained
We tend not to feed alfalfa here in OK because of the beetles. Some say 2nd cutting on is safe, others say not so. I will feed cubes that have come from Idaho or somewhere not known to have the problem but I won't feed local alfalfa at all.
     
    07-28-2012, 09:07 AM
  #27
Weanling
No probably about second cuttings...any cuttings being done now in this area are worthless unless someone has a serious irrigation system...I live a few hours south of you. There is hay available but the cost has risen at an alarming rate & will continue to rise because of transport cost & market value right now. Alf/tim cubes are a great alternative but are also pricey..I have talked to the local farm supply stores here and the managers have increased their buying plans for the bagged forage. Most people I know are also concerned about spring because the grass,etc has died deep in the root, water tables are waaay under where they should be & some wells have dried up.
     
    07-28-2012, 09:22 AM
  #28
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by deserthorsewoman    
Geeeezzzzzz...and I thought we pay pharmacy prices here ....at the uppity feedstore 20 for alfalfa, 19 for Timothy /orchard and 15 for 3 way. Currently farmer-direct it's between 12 and 15 for alfalfa and 10 for 3 way. No Timothy/orchard here. Where exactly are you?
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wow!! That is amazing!
$9 alf now
$7.50 grass
Brome can't find anyway around here now
Lg rounds/squares $120...just 2 months ago $30
     

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